Student Ambassador Spotlight: Isabel V.

Isabel V., Student Ambassador (2017-2018)

Meet Isabel! Isabel is a Student Ambassador in Spain who was inspired to join the Student Ambassador program because she noticed that there was almost no encouragement for girls to learn how to program in her community, and she wanted to lead the change to share the power of technology with local girls. Isabel is also an active member of HeforShe, an initiative of UN Women, and draws a great deal of inspiration from Emma Watson’s questions of “if not me, who? If not now, when?”

In addition to supporting and inspiring girls and women in her community, Isabel is also passionate about Judo, and won a Spanish bronze medal in the sport this year.

Isabel had great success as a Student Ambassador this year,  recruiting and supporting 90 girls to complete the program this year. Isabel attributes this success to having access to talk to the girls – Isabel spoke at the kickoff event in Madrid this year, made presentations at local schools (in person and over skype), and took care to provide mid-season support to girls working at those schools, as well as virtual support to girls participating in the program in Valencia. Isabel was also one of our social media influencers, who took over the Technovation Instagram account to share out some of the stories of girls participating in Spain and offer encouragement to girls around the work.

Isabel told us that “being a Student Ambassador  was the best thing I did through this year. I really felt that the work I was doing was truly helping others” and that “the best thing about doing this is when you see the girls faces all lighted up because they are excited about the learning they are doing.” Isabel also told us that helping the girls through the program showed her how much she actually knows and helped her feel more confident about her programming, leadership, and public speaking skills.

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Student Ambassador Spotlight: Sabrina Atwiine

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Atwiine Sabrina and I am 18 years old. I am from Uganda in the Kabale district and a 2017/18 Student Ambassador.  I participated in Technovation in 2017 as part of a team called 3 Girls Making it Up. It was not until one of my school’s alumni came to my school that I got introduced to Technovation. She lived in the city and went to multiple Technovation events and thought it would be a good thing for her old school to participate.

 

What was one challenge you faced when you participated in Technovation. How did you overcome it?

2017 being the first year I participated, I knew nothing about technology but I had the passion to learn. Therefore, not knowing anything couldn’t bring me down. I knew what I wanted!  Also, in my community, no one was interested in technology and they considered it a boy’s thing, which was a big challenge, but I was determined.

I was on a team of three and none of us had heard of, or used, MIT App Inventor before and that was challenging as well.  My teammates almost gave up, but I persuaded them to keep going. I suggested to first focus on the paper prototyping and then try MIT app inventor.

 

How did you overcome the challenge of being unfamiliar with MIT App Inventor?

I dedicated a lot of time trying out the different MIT App Inventor features to understand how they worked and what they could do. I used tutorials to teach myself how to use it. Everytime I learned something new through a tutorial, I would immediately try it out to see how it worked. It was hard but fun at the same time. We played with every feature in MIT App Inventor until we got what we wanted. We developed an app called Harmonious –  it was meant to enhance peace and harmony in our community.  

 

What would be your advice to girls facing the same challenge?

  • Self-confidence: To be successful [..], you have to be motivated. Do you believe you can make it? “Yes I can’’ is what I told myself and it kept me going through the whole season.
  • Passion: Do you love what you are doing? I developed a real passion for my project and I wanted to make it the best, which made me want to learn even more about coding.
  • Learn to try and discover: You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Before you try something new, it will always seem harder than once you give it a chance and apply yourself. Be a discoverer!

Don’t wait for someone to help you, get the confidence and get to work! Use tutorials.

 

What made you decide to become a Technovation student ambassador?

There are many reasons I decided to become a student ambassador but mostly I wanted girls in my community to have access to the world of technology.

First of all, when I participated in Technovation, I didn’t have anyone to help guide me within my community, which created its own set of challenges. After that, I wanted to make sure that girls in my community were aware of the program and feel supported.

Secondly, in my region, only the schools in the main city usually participate in Technovation and I wanted to change that. Becoming a Technovation student ambassador allows me to reach out to more girls.

Finally, I am someone who believes that “what a man can do, a woman can do”. However, in my community some people still think that men and women are not equal. Technology is considered to be for boys. This really compelled me to become a student ambassador and bring Technovation to the girls in my area.

What have you been able to accomplish in that role?

I have introduced Technovation in twelve schools in my community and encouraged them to create Technovation clubs in their schools.  I work with each club and help arrange the meetings with the girls. At the moment I have recruited more than one hundred girls, and I have worked with multiple organizations on the ground to recruit mentors from tech fields to help the girls.

What advice would you give someone who was interested in starting technovation or another coding program but felt intimidated.

You need the ability to believe that you can make it no matter what. The important thing is to stay focused no matter the hardships along the way,  things don’t always go smoothly but if you have determination, you can overcome anything.

For example, when I applied to be a Student Ambassador, one of my friends pointed out that it would be hard to fulfill my duties as I don’t have a phone or a computer and my school doesn’t have internet access. Everything she said was true, but so what? I am a changemaker, and I will not give up no matter what.

Anybody can be anything they want to be as long as they are determined, regardless of economic, physical, or geographical factors. 

I am very thankful for the people who introduced me to Technovation, it has changed my life. I now think outside the box, and I plan on leaving a mark in the field of technology, no matter how long it takes!

Technovation Student Ambassador Spotlight: Jennifer John

By Jennifer John

Standing at the front of the classroom at Herbert Hoover Middle School, I opened my laptop and typed in the familiar URL, which auto filled after the first three characters from repeated use: appinventor.mit.edu. As the site loaded, I watched the stream of girls, between eleven and fourteen years old, come through the door, filling the room with chatter. They spread through the room, sitting down at  the square cookie-cutter tables and starting up their San Francisco school district-issued Chromebooks.

As the chatter gradually faded, I rehearsed in my head the tutorial I was going teach that day: making a multiple-choice trivia app. Although the steps to build the app, which consisted of dragging colored puzzle-piece shaped blocks representing lines of Java code onto a canvas, were now instinctive to me after years of experience with programming, every lesson was a challenge to communicate clearly. I needed to make the process similarly intuitive for the students– so they could fully understand the why behind conditionals and if statements, leaving the class with an additional instrument in their toolkits that they could apply to their own apps in the coming months.

I first began volunteering with Technovation during the 2016-2017 season. After winning the competition in 2016 along with my sister, I was eager to help other girls gain the same life-changing experiences that I had. It was only after the competition that I fully realized just how valuable the skills that Technovation teaches are: coding with an audience in mind, conducting market research, public speaking, and overcoming the at times terrifying (but exhilarating!) aspects of entrepreneurship are all crucial abilities for a budding entrepreneur that are rarely taught in schools. The significance of Technovation’s impact is augmented by its focus on a demographic notoriously underrepresented in entrepreneurship and technology: girls. Particularly for its growing body of international participants, Technovation exposes girls to fields that may have seemed off-limits to their gender, with monumental results.

As a Student Ambassador at Technovation, I get to play a direct role in helping girls discover new possibilities for their futures, whether that’s through teaching at workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area or producing instructional YouTube videos to be seen by girls around the world. It’s profoundly rewarding to know that my work can impact how one person views her abilities, her strengths, and her potential.

It was because of my strong beliefs in Technovation’s mission and previous experiences as a Student Ambassador that I was delighted to be able to teach the Technovation curriculum to the class at Hoover Middle School. Unlike with workshops, as a regular teacher at a school, I have the incredible opportunity to watch first-hand as the girls develop their skills. This progress has been astounding. Since learning how to follow my steps to make a trivia app during my first lesson in October, they have gained enough confidence and practice to design and implement their own apps from scratch. It was a thrilling experience a few weeks ago when I gave the class a few coding challenges for apps, not knowing what to expect, and watched them take the initiative to successfully build them with little to no help from me. That’s how I know they’re learning by leaps and bounds.

Now in January, we’re onto the ideation process, and the girls are tasked with a challenge that would stump many adults: identifying and designing a novel technology-based solution to a problem in their communities. I can’t wait to see the innovative ideas that I know they’ll develop.

*A big thank-you to the Walmart Foundation for helping make this program possible in the San Francisco Bay Area*

Jennifer is a high school junior from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the co-founder and CEO of Loc8Don8, which she began when she competed in Technovation in 2016. She loves all things entrepreneurship and computer science, and is particularly interested in the intersection of artificial intelligence and education. Check out her YouTube channel with programming tutorials here, and visit the Loc8Don8 website here to learn more and download the app.